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Thursday, September 20,2007

Sheep Notes

by WLJ
13, 2004 $18M in assistance proposed As part of the new '2004 Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Program' the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) has proposed providing up to $18 million to sheep and lamb producers who have recently experienced reduced production and flock size, low prices, and poor market conditions. This proposed program is designed to encourage the replacement and retention of ewe lamb breeding stock by giving direct cash payments to impacted producers. In order to qualify, producers must have been impacted during the one-year period from August 1, 2003 through July 31, 2004. Sheep and lamb operations may apply in person or via mail, telephone, or fax to FSA county offices once the application period is announced. The application period will follow the closing of two comment periods. Comments on the program specifics must be turned in by October 7. Comments on information collection in this rule must be received by November 8. Comments can be mailed to Grady Bilberry, director, Price Support Division, Farm Service Agency, USDA, STOP 0512 Room 4095-S, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-0512; e-mail: danielle_cooke@wdc.fsa.usda.gov; fax: 202/690-3307. Interstate transport amendment proposed USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to require livestock facilities that handle sheep and goats in interstate commerce to follow certain procedures to minimize the potential spread of scrapie. The approval process will ensure that certain uniform practices relating to the identification, record keeping, and handling of sheep and goats are followed. Notice of the proposal was published in the Aug. 26 Federal Register. Public comments will be accepted by FSIS until October 25. ASI budgets unanimously approved The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Board of Directors has unanimously approved the 2004-2005 budgets to fund services, programs and operations of the national organization. Fifty-six certified voters were given the annual responsibility of reviewing and casting their votes for the next fiscal year budgets. Three ballots were cast. The first ballot was for the approval of the American Wool Trust budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1 and running through September 30, 2005. Secondly, approval was sought for the Fund II budget of ASI for the legislative and membership activities of the association as well as non-wool trust and association services. The final board vote was in regard to the dues assessment rate. It was recommended that the rate remain the same as the current year—three cents per stock sheep and $6 per member. MPR changes approved Urgings by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and state affiliates to modify the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) regulations as they apply to domestic and imported boxed lamb cut sales have been successful. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued its final rule in a recent issue of the Federal Register saying that the new reports will be available starting November 1. Two definitions have been amended. The definition of "carlot-based" is being changed to include language to limit carlot-based sales of boxed lamb cuts to transactions between a buyer and a seller consisting of 1,000 pounds or more of boxed lamb items. The definition of "importer" reduces the volume level of annual lamb imports establishing a person as an importer to 2,500 metric tons of lamb products per year, down from 5,000 metric tons. Menu study shows lamb's use in trendsetting restaurants A recent analysis of lamb on restaurant menus shows that lamb represents more than 10 percent of the protein mentions of high profile, white tablecloth restaurants on Food Beat Inc.'s "Trendspotters" database. Not surprisingly, 84 percent of the mentions of lamb are as entrees, with several lamb appetizers, salads, soups, and sandwiches as well. Trendspotter restaurant menus often highlighted ingredients form local area or regional flavors. Some menu items noted included: • Dijon Crusted Colorado Lamb Chops, Chef Allen's, Miami Beach, FL • Three Preparations of Iowa Lamb, Goodfellow's, Minneapolis, MN • Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb, Mel's Restaurant & Bar, Denver, CO • Sweet Garlic Crusted Oregon Lamb Chops, Painted Table, Seattle, WA • Wood Grilled Virginia Lamb Chops, Café Annie, Houston, TX Sheep shearers wanted The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is compiling a sheep shearer database, which will contain information ranging from a shearer's contact information to what services, supplies and level of skills he or she provides. The organization kicked off the project in mid-August, and said it was needed because of producers having a hard time finding people to shear their sheep for this fall. For more information, contact Bob Padula at 320/269-7973 or by e-mail at padula@starband.net.

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Monday, September 17,2007

Oregon study finds grazing damage in monument

by WLJ
—Findings could prompt movement on grazing buyout proposal. The findings of a recent study commissioned by National Center for Conservation Science and Policy (NCCSP), an Ashland, OR-based environmental group, will be included in a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) analysis of grazing in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon. Ranchers, who have long been battling to keep cattle on the land, could face severe economic hardship if cattle are forced out of the area. The latest report in the long-running dispute could mean that cattle graziers will be the next group forced out of the monument. The study, released last Monday, was conducted by 10 environmental scientists who worked in cooperation with BLM scientists and Oregon State University researchers to conduct the three- year study which was funded by the World Wildlife Fund. What the researchers concluded was that areas which were heavily grazed by cattle showed significant impacts. As a result, the environmentalists concluded that commercial grazing of cattle is incompatible with the goals contained within the proclamation made by the Clinton administration when the monument was created. Specifically, the research team found that mixed conifers, oak woodlands, small springs and riparian areas showed signs of livestock damage, including soil compaction, reduction of streamside vegetation, increased delivery of sediment to streams, elevated temperatures and reduced dissolved oxygen levels in springs. Small mammals showed the greatest losses from grazing with 38 percent lower cumulative biomass (total weight) and 20 percent lower abundance in heavily grazed areas. Livestock-related losses were greatest to harvest mice, woodrats and long-tailed voles. Livestock grazing may have negative effects on predator-prey dynamics by reducing abundance of small mammals that are important prey of the threatened northern spotted owl in southwest Oregon, particularly woodrats and deer mice. And, bird communities in heavily grazed areas had fewer long-distance migrants, foliage gleaners and shrub-nesting species, but higher numbers of ground nesters. Small springs used heavily by livestock had significantly higher temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen concentrations. The researchers presented the findings to BLM officials last week who will include the results in their own analysis due out later this year. “We’re incorporating their findings with all the information we received that’s pertinent to evaluating rangeland health and whether grazing is compatible with the proclamation,” said John Gerritsma, Ashland Resource Area manager for the BLM’s Medford District. The same proclamation which created the monument in 2000 directed BLM officials to retire grazing allotments if they were found to be incompatible with “protecting objects of biological interest.” Prior to the release of the report, public land grazing has been a touchy subject in the region. Last year, a proposal was floated in Congress by Oregon’s two senators to buy out grazing rights in the monument, a move supported by Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. However, the proposal never made it to the floor during the vote. “I think buyouts should be rare,” Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, R-OR, said last year when announcing the legislation. “But these circumstances are unique and are putting the squeeze on our ranchers. This legislation is needed to keep them in business and in the saddle. Instead of turning to the courts, two interested parties found common ground to solve this problem. That’s the Oregon way and a great basis for legislation.” Andy Kerr, director of National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, a group which is also working to retire public lands grazing permits, said he is hopeful the bill can be reintroduced before the end of the year. “We hope to get the legislation introduced in the next few months,” Kerr said. “The bill is what we call a ‘two-fer,’ it has bi-partisan support from Oregon’s two senators, one Republican and one Democrat, and it contains something that opposing sides (ranchers and environmentalists) want. Politicians love that and we are optimistic this bill can make it through the congressional gauntlet.” He said time is of the essence in the matter and it would be best for everyone involved in the matter if it is resolved before the release of the BLM study this fall, which he believes will reach similar conclusions to those reported in the NCCSP study . “We want to compensate the ranchers for these leases,” he said. “Is that what the ranchers want? No, it’s not their first choice; they love their work, but they see the handwriting on the wall.” Kerr said the congressional proposal to retire the grazing leases in the monument includes $300 per permitted animal unit month. In addition, he said the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, another involved environmental organization, will also include what Kerr called a “significant confidential payment,” if the measure makes it through Congress. “It’s critical that this be passed before BLM releases their study because they will want to change how things are done. There will be shorter lease periods, ranchers will have to wait longer in the spring to turn their cattle out, streams will have to be fenced, and BLM will want guys on horseback out there to herd cattle away from riparian areas. None of that’s good for the ranchers and it will be harder to get compensation for these guys. Nobody wants that; we want an equitable solution for the ranchers,” Kerr said. — John Robinson, WLJ Editor    

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Monday, September 17,2007

Market steps back

by WLJ
—Surge in corn adds to caution in cattle markets. —Fed cattle supply supportive of higher cash ahead. Packers slowed their chain speeds last week in an effort to stay out of the market as long as possible. There were reports of dark plants last Monday and USDA pegged the harvest at just 113,000 head. For the week through Thursday, the tally was just 490,000 head compared to 502,000 during the same period in 2006. Packers were working to prevent the beef cutout from sliding any further as a result of soft retail movement. The added bonus for them came in the form of pressuring feedlots to lower asking prices. By mid-day last Thursday, there were reports of some trade in the north at $144-145 dressed, along with some light live cattle trade at $91-91.50. Trade in the south Plains had yet to develop, although the consensus was for trade to break out in the $93-94 range late in the week despite light trade and moderate carry over from the prior week when cattle traded at $95 live in the south and $147-148 dressed and $93-94.75 live in the north. Analysts last week said they expected steady to higher trade coming into the week, however, the eroding cutout and weak trade on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) caused them to re- evaluate that position. “I thought coming into the week we’d see at least steady and perhaps $1 higher,” said Cattle-Fax market analyst Troy Applehans. “But now I think we’re going to have to take a step back for the next one to three weeks.” He said the supply side of the fed cattle business was very supportive of cattle feeders in the weeks and months ahead and particularly good for late fourth quarter marketings. The current state of feedlots and light placement numbers are also helping to support their trading position. Estimates for Sept. 1 cattle on feed numbers by Livestock Marketing Information Center were 6.4 percent below last year. Placements were expected at 7.6 percent of year-ago levels. “I think we will wander in the $92-95 range for awhile before picking up toward the end of the year and testing the high-$90s and even $1,” Applehans said. “I think cattle feeders are pulling quite a few cattle forward right now but they’re still pretty green, so there’s no big rush to sell them, particularly when the board is supportive. That said, I think there is more downside risk in this market than there is upside potential.” He added that the retail situation, although difficult to pinpoint, appears to be improving going into fall, which will add some support. “There is a lot of out-front business being done right now—21 or more days into the future, so it’s a little difficult to get a handle on—but beef featuring looks pretty good and retailers are switching away from middle meats and toward end meats for their fall lineup,” Applehans said. “Right now, beef is competitive with pork and poultry, more so than we have been so far this year, which has helped with movement at the retail level.” Last Thursday, Choice boxed beef traded lower. Looking ahead, Applehans said he expects cash to become the predominant driver in the marketplace as basis narrows. “There are a lot of hedged cattle out there in the country but for now, basis is still a risk,” he said. “As the board starts to trade in line with cash, feedlots will probably become more willing sellers.” Last Thursday on CME, October contracts closed at $94.67, down five points from the previous close. December live cattle were down 37 cents to $98.62 and February contracts shed 150 points to end the session at $100.22. The June contract was the session’s only upward-moving contract, which gained 7 points to close the day at $96.32. The cow markets last week bounced back to regain some of the prior week loses despite cull sale numbers which are beginning to creep higher. The cow beef cutout increased to $113.03, 90 percent lean sold higher at $136.99, and the 50 percent gained slightly to reach $49.39. Compared to last year, prices remain strong. The cutout during the same week in 2006 sat at $107.81, while the 90s were at $133.88 and the 50s at $40.56. Feeder cattle With the rally in corn prices following a record-breaking USDA corn report, Troy Vetterkind of Ehedger.com believes that maybe the cash trade on feeder cattle will finally begin to soften a little bit. “The September corn report should slow things down on the feeder cattle side of things. In both August and September, we saw the market rally after what most analysts believed were optimistic corn reports, leading me to believe it’s the market’s way of telling us that people don’t have a lot of faith in the USDA’s big corn numbers,” said Vetterkind. “Regardless, the price jump in corn was real, for whatever reason, and I think cattle feeders were caught a little bit off guard by the reversal in the corn market—it had been slipping,” Vetterkind explains. Vetterkind said he believes this will ultimately lead to lower cash trades at auction markets around the country because of tight margins throughout the production and processing industries. “There’s definitely a fair amount of risk in buying feeder cattle right now. I still believe that because of corn prices, there has been a delay in some placements. We’re getting down to the end of summer and privately held as well as feed yard-owned cattle coming off of grass, along with fall calves, will start to flood the market to some degree,” Vetterkind says. Although margins are tight, Vetterkind says it won’t stop feed yards from placing large numbers of feeders. “With corn prices going up again, margins for people feeding cattle are getting tighter, but there are a lot of empty pens around. Corn prices aren’t going to stop the yards from taking most of these cattle. Yearlings have been especially strong recently, but the sales we saw where yearlings were lower is showing to me that reality is beginning to catch up with people who have been paying exorbitant prices for some of these feeder cattle,” explained Vetterkind. In the cash trade at auction markets around the country, feeder prices were mostly steady to lower, following a bullish September USDA corn report. In Oklahoma City last week, 11,703 head sold, and feeders were mostly steady to $1-3 lower. Demand was good for feeders and moderate for calves, with buyers being very selective for flesh and quality. Many lots came from out of the state, and the supply was heavy with reputation ranch calves. Fill conditions ranged from gaunt to full, and flesh conditions ranged from thin to fleshy, but a number of thin or very thin cattle were offered. Six weight fleshy steers brought prices ranging from $120-126, with heifers falling in at $111-117. A cold front pushing through the Oklahoma area, coupled with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico due to a dissipating hurricane, has provided much of Oklahoma and parts of Texas with heavy rains. Extremely high wheat prices and the heavy moisture may be tempering local demand for calves to put on wheat pasture later in the coming months. In Joplin, MO, receipts totaling 6,776 were seen last week, with steer and heifer calves under 650 lbs. steady to $2 lower. Steers over 650 lbs. were steady, and heifers of the same weights were $1-2 higher. Demand was good for yearlings and weaned and vaccinated calves, but moderate for all others. Supply was moderate to heavy. Fall pastures in the area have benefitted from recent rains and cooler temperatures. Some very heavy rains in a few places caused fences, hay bales, and roads to wash away. Large steers 600-700 lbs. were selling mostly between $117-125.50, and heifers sold $111-113. A run of 1,664 head was seen last week in Clovis, NM, where feeder steers and heifers were mostly steady on active trade and good demand. Feeder steers and calves between 600 lbs. and 700 lbs. sold between $111.50-118, with feeder heifers going for $102-111. In Davenport, WA, feeders last week were very uneven compared to the last sale, with a slight trend of lower prices paid on lighter weight steer and heifer calves, and some instances of up to $2 higher on feeders above 600 lbs. The feeder cattle trade was moderate to active with moderate demand for the total run of 1,642 head. Prices paid for nearly all weights of steers between 600- 900 lbs. bottomed a little over $100, with six weight steers bringing up to $112. Heifers trailed about $5-10 lower in most cases with some lots bringing $108. — WLJ    

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Monday, September 10,2007

Beef Checkoff Program key to export efforts

by WLJ
Exports of U.S. beef continue to increase, thanks in part to promotions funded by U.S. beef producers through the Beef Checkoff Program. These efforts are coordinated on behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and state beef councils by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). For the Beef Board’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than $4.8 million in national checkoff funds is budgeted for foreign marketing. This national money was combined with checkoff funds from state beef councils and further supplemented with funds from the Market Access Program (MAP) of the USDA, leveraging the value of producer dollars to the greatest extent possible. In fact, a $6.3 million checkoff investment by beef producers in 2006 purchased $15.5 million in total international promotions when USDA MAP funds and contributions by grain and soybean producers were included. “More than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of U.S. borders,” said CBB Chairman Ken Stielow, a producer from Russell, Kansas. “That’s why exports are key to the future of the U.S. beef industry. We need to assure that consumers around the world know about the high quality and excellent value of U.S. beef.” Last year, more than $2 billion in beef and beef variety meats were exported from the U.S. During the first five months of this year, beef export values were 17 percent higher than they were for the same period in 2006. Recent promotion results demonstrate the value of investing checkoff dollars in these programs. An example is the “We Care” campaign in Japan which reflects U.S. beef producer efforts to provide high quality, safe U.S. beef to Japanese consumers. The campaign is helping re-establish U.S. beef in the Japanese market. “U.S. beef is already perceived as the highest quality,” according to USMEF Japan Director Greg Hanes, “but it takes time to develop trust and respect in the Japanese culture.” Hanes points out that USMEF has been in Japan for more than 30 years to develop relationships necessary to increase sales. A home run Baseball provided a backdrop for a recent “We Care” promotion in Japan, with U.S. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and former New York Met Bobby Valentine (who now coaches Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines) lending their assistance. The event was part of a celebration of U.S. Meat Month in Japan, which prompted Japanese meat traders to increase featuring of U.S. meat and encourage consumers to make regular meat purchases. Ryan, Valentine and USMEF officers generated excitement for U.S. beef and other meats at a baseball game July 18 between the Orix Buffaloes and the Chiba Lotte Marines. Pre-game festivities included a fun quiz of meat-related questions, Ryan pitching contests, and bento box meals featuring U.S. beef at the American Meat booth—which sold out of meals by 5 p.m., more than 90 minutes before game time. Proceeds from the meals were donated to Japanese charities helping handicapped children. Earlier that week, Valentine helped publicize Meat Month at a media conference in Tokyo, with more than 50 reporters from throughout the country attending. USMEF officers reiterated the U.S. commitment to customers in Japan and introduced the “Beef de Genki” campaign, which builds on the “We Care” theme by positioning U.S. beef as a key to a happy, or “genki,” life. On July 19, the U.S. meat industry hosted a U.S. meat extravaganza in Tokyo for more than 650 key Japanese traders. This event also included Ryan and Valentine and demonstrated the industry’s appreciation to the traders for increasing their purchase of U.S. meat supplies. Guests enjoyed 10 different U.S. beef and pork dishes while being entertained by Charlie & Canon Ball, the most famous country band in Japan. Ryan, who is a U.S. beef producer, continued his support of U.S. beef in Japan on July 20 with a phone conference with about 25 international and domestic media, including the Associated Press, Reuters and Kyodo. He told the reporters that export markets are vital to growth of the U.S. beef industry and meeting international consumer needs is a high priority to U.S. beef producers. More than 20 stories have already been generated through his participation. “Though they’re not readily visible in this country, programs our beef producers are funding worldwide through their $1-per-head Beef Checkoff Program are definitely having an impact on beef buyers and consumers in other countries,” Stielow said. “Those efforts need to continue if we’re going to expand the market for our product.”

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Monday, September 10,2007

Fed cattle trade expected to move higher

by WLJ
—Feeder cattle sales strong, video yearlings sell as high as $122. Fed cattle trade appeared to be trending back to the late week trade pattern of fall after a couple months of cattle trading early in the week. Trade was stalled last week with no action expected until Friday. Last Thursday afternoon, there was $5 separating packer bids of $92 and feedlot asking prices of $97 live and $154-155 dressed. Ehedger.com analyst Troy Vetterkind said last Thursday he expected trade to develop at prices steady to higher than the prior week at $96 live and $152 in the beef. Prior week trade was in a range of $94-95 live and $148-149 in the north and $94.50 to $95 live basis in the south, with some Kansas dressed sales at $149.50-150. Packers last week were working hard to make their way through cattle on hand despite negative margins, and the week-to-date tally through last Thursday stood at 387,000 head for the holiday-shortened week. Clearance over the holiday weekend appeared to have been good and buyers were back in the market last Wednesday with nearly 500 loads of fab and grind loads trading hands. That movement initially pushed boxed beef prices higher, with Choice moving up to $148.99 last Wednesday and Select was up to $142.36 before weakening and dropping back last Thursday. Primal prices last week were stronger across the spectrum with those from the round leading the way higher early in the week. On the downside, cow beef markets dropped back sharply last week with seasonal weakness taking a big chunk out of the market, which had been the bright spot for the industry so far this year. “Boneless beef markets were sharply lower yesterday (last Wednesday) with 90 percent cow beef losing close to $8 and fed cattle 50’s losing $3 per cwt. Demand for boneless is soft after the holiday with supplies described as ample. This could be the beginning phases of a seasonal downturn in cow beef prices,” Vetterkind said. “All-in-all, I would expect to see further gains in the Choice/Select markets going into the first of next week. Any near-term setbacks in the cash beef market should be supported, as buyers will be looking to procure beef to meet increasing demand and usage patterns going into fall.” On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last Thursday, live cattle issues were mixed at the closing bell, with up-front contracts slightly lower despite expectations of steady to higher cash last week, while deferred months ended in the black. October was down 25 points, at $96.80. December was off 32 points, closing at $100.22, and February was down 10 points, ending the day at $100.90. April 2008 contracts tacked on seven points to end the session at $101.25 and June gained 12 points to finish at $96.85. Vetterkind said the volatility in the market last week was to be expected. “Technically, the market still looks to be on sound footing and we are going to see a little volatility at these high price levels. To be perfectly honest, the market can go one way or the other as fundamentals remain bullish,” he said. “However, the market is overbought and due for a correction. The way we acted yesterday (Sept. 5), we may have seen enough of a correction for the time being. It still feels like December and February (live) cattle want to go to $102-103 and if attainable, I would hedge another portion of expected marketings for that time frame. I still like being long October live cattle on any further breaks due to fund rolling of long positions.” Feeder cattle Superior Livestock Auction held a sale headquartered in Denver, CO, last week from Sept. 5-7, offering approximately 112,200 head from all regions in the U.S. Market reports available as of press time on Sept. 6 indicated strong but variable prices for most lots sold on Sept. 5, with delivery dates ranging from current through January. Prices paid for feeder steers and heifers appeared to be strongest in the south-central states as well as in the western mountain states. Large feeder steers ranged from $113.40-127 for six-weight calves, and heifers trailed up to 10 dollars in most cases, bringing between $106-118. All cattle sold during the sale’s first day were under 800 lbs., with the majority being 600 lb. and under calves. “We’re having a really, really good sale,” said Superior Livestock General Manager Richard Stober. “Demand is good and we’ve just had a really good turnout here in Denver.” Brett Crotts of Schwieterman, Inc. said that the seemingly never-ending ride up on the feeder roller coaster is simply due to support on the live cattle side of the market. “You’ve got live cattle above $100 in several months and although the margins are extremely tight in most cases, there are apparently plenty of buyers out there willing to take on some of these high-priced feeder cattle for various reasons. With live cattle up and corn down, feeders have no choice but to go up,” explained Crotts. Crotts also said that maybe some of the best deals he sees right now in the cash trade is on small heifers. “Some of the better numbers we’ve seen pencil out are for little heifers, around 500 lbs. They’re lower by $10 or better than the steers in a lot of cases and if you’ve got wheat pasture or corn stalks, you can afford to keep them around through next summer to take advantage of some longer-term marketing,” Crotts said. He also explained that for the individual and the feed yard operators both, it is critical to play both sides of the market. “With margins so tight, you absolutely have to be long on feeders and short on live cattle. If you’re not willing to play both sides of the market, you’re definitely not going to see any profit on 700 lb. steers. Some of this demand we’re seeing is maybe by feed yards who are staring at empty pens and are willing to take the risk, but most is still driven by individuals who are in the cattle for the long term. Hay is getting cheaper in most places and if you have a cheaper feed source, there are a few opportunities out there,” Crotts explains. In the cash cattle trade at auctions around the country, demand remained moderate to good but supplies were fairly limited in most places. In Amarillo last week, 1,056 head were offered and feeder steers and heifers were both firm to $2 higher on the limited test. 600-650 lb. steers sold for $118-121, with heifers of the same size and weight $2-3 lower at $115.50-119. Receipts were down last week in El Reno, OK, where 2,621 head were run through the Wednesday sale. Compared to the week previous, feeder steers were $2-3 higher, with lower grades or lighter muscled cattle $4-5 higher. Feeder heifers, as well as steer and heifer calves, were lightly tested, but the few lots sold were mostly steady. Demand was extremely good for feeder cattle as feedlot pen space appears to be larger than the numbers being offered. Feeder cattle were mostly in thin to moderate flesh with average to full weigh ups. Medium and large feeder steer calves in the 600-685 lb. range sold from $115-123.50. Yearling steers from 665 lbs. and up sold from $108-124. Further north in Ogallala, NE, a good offering of 3,200 head was seen last week, though no trend can be established because there has not been another recent feeder sale. Trade was active on all weights and prices reflected very strong demand for the mostly yearling cattle, as six- to seven- weight steers sold between $122.50-128. Heavier nine-weight steers sold for an average of $113.94. Heifers were several dollars behind the steers, with 600-700 lb. heifers selling between $114.50-119.75. Nine-weight heifers also sold a fair deal lower than the steers, with a 218-head lot bringing $108.84. A strong offering of 8,500 head was seen last week in Torrington, WY, where, compared to the previous sale, steers and heifers over 700 lbs. sold $2-3 higher on good demand. Seven-weight steers sold for averages between $120.57-124.64, with heavier 900-1,000 lb. cattle bringing $108-114. Heifers in the 600-700 lb. range brought averages in the $116 range. A light run of 432 head was seen last week in Madras, OR, in one of the few sales open in the Pacific states due to the Labor Day holiday. In the light test, feeder steers sold mostly $98-105 for 600-700 lbs., with heavier 800-900 lb. feeders selling $100-105. Heifers of six and seven weights were highly variable, bringing $85-102. — WLJ  

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Monday, September 10,2007

LETTERS

by WLJ
NAIS is a ruse No matter where you live in America, or what you do—whether you are a 4-H or FFA parent, rancher, logger, farmer, miner, commercial fisherman, recreationist, etc.—you should be paying close attention to the battle for property rights and freedom that is being fought on the lands of Colorado. Whether the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is “the mark of the Beast” may be questioned, but what is crystal-clear is the USDA’s intention of making this “voluntary” agenda mandatory: Nationwide. Touted as an asset to “homeland security” and “the threat of disease,” the truth is that this is a property rights issue on more than one front. Far more of a real threat is the fact of America’s borders being pried open and/or erased by those with political and global aspirations. America’s people, animals and health are not in need of this three-step plan that the USDA pitches as a must-have. Deception runs rife throughout, from the language deception of “voluntary” to “premises registration” for “traceback,” and more. NAIS is a ruse. NAIS is a moneymaker, too, for those receiving taxpayer dollars by the wheelbarrow full, disguised as “grant funding.” It is dishonest to operate in such a manner, no matter who is doing it. Government agencies are not exempt from wrongdoing, though they seem to be, more and more, of the opinion that they have some sort of “diplomatic immunity” and are exempt from accountability or being punished for wrongdoing. Using children as a tool to wreak havoc with a Constitutional Republic is nothing new, but the manner in which it is being done in Colorado is especially egregious: letting 4-H and FFA kids raise and love their animal projects, only to be told that their parents are keeping them from showing at county and state fair levels. Today’s children will grow up soon and will not forget what was done to them and their parents in the name of “NAIS.” Today’s children will equate the Trojan horse and the soldiers in its belly to today’s NAIS implementers. Anyone that seeks to wrest the bonds of family apart and dismantle this all-important bond of parents and children—whether done by an individual, an organization or an agency—is playing with fire, both morally and legally. Parents that cherish property rights beyond mere “monetary value,” and cannot be purchased by the highest bidder, are perhaps scarce as hen’s teeth, but more priceless than any diamond, for they pass on to their children the certainty that some things are beyond price. Some things must always be beyond putting a price on. America’s freedom is one of those things. America’s property rights are one and the same. Don’t let “NAIS” or any language deception distract you from protecting your property rights, your freedom. It came at too high a price to sell out for any price now. Think of Flanders Field and Arlington Cemetery. Once lost, freedom is not easily regained. Julie Kay Smithson London, OH   Well done Good morning, Dick Crow, Congratulations! Be proud of your staff at WLJ, for having the courage to take a shot at “Big Brother.” Beef and Drovers are timid, fearful, flinch easy and can’t afford the ink to print the truth about what NAIS is wanting to do to the USA livestock industry. Tell your people, especially Tait Berlier, at WLJ, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant to the remaining livestock industry.” Your friend, Darol Dickinson Barnesville, OH  

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Monday, September 3,2007

BLM program improving public lands

by WLJ
In its ongoing effort to improve the health and productivity of the public lands, including those recently affected by wildfire, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has initiated a native seed collection effort that is part of an interagency “Seeds of Success” program.  Starting with 12 collecting teams that quickly grew to 35 teams nationwide, BLM and numerous partners carry out the Seeds of Success (SOS) initiative, which is the core of a National Native Plant Materials Development Program. SOS provides seeds from many species of plants to growers, researchers, and administrators of seed in the U.S. BLM’s collecting partners include the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Center for Plant Conservation, along with others. The collection effort complements measures BLM is already taking to fight noxious and invasive weeds, as well as sustain healthy riparian, range, and wildlife habitat on public lands. “In the midst of an intense wildfire season in our western states, this partnership enhances the BLM’s ability to protect and rehabilitate the public lands under its management,” said BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson. “Through Seeds of Success, our agency’s field offices will have greater capability to re-establish native species when restoring the land.” SOS gathers between 400 and 600 wildland seed collections annually for both long-term conservation and immediate restoration needs. This October, 500 collections will be transferred from the USFS’ Bend, OR, Seed Extractory to the Department of Agriculture’s National Plant Germplasm System to join 1,300 existing collections in the system. SOS material within the germplasm system is freely available to researchers working on native plant materials development.

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Monday, September 3,2007

Cows that work, calves that grade

by WLJ
Many beef producers struggle with priorities when it comes to genetic selection. One part of them knows the market rewards a focus on the end product. After all, consumers are the ultimate customers. Then their skeptical side kicks in: “Yeah, but the most important thing is to get as many live, healthy calves as possible each year so the cows can earn their keep.” Those torn by this conflict of the mind can take heart in an updated research paper by Twig Marston, Kansas State University. Its long title indicates a comprehensive approach. “The Relationship Between Marbling and Other EPDs with Implications When Making Beef Cowherd Breeding and Management Decisions” discusses how carcass quality is related to reproduction. “For profits to rise, there has to be a balance between product quality, or value, and cowherd production costs,” says Extension beef specialist Marston. “For several decades, there’s been a movement toward value-based marketing, so marbling is an economically important trait.” Marston says finding that equilibrium should not be difficult. “Marbling has to be bred into the offspring. It can’t be fabricated from a special environment,” he says. “Luckily, marbling is a moderate to highly-heritable trait. Reproduction, however, is not.” Although no research examines the direct relationship between marbling and reproduction, studies of other traits point the way. In one example, Angus sire data were sorted into groups with expected progeny differences (EPDs) that were in the upper or lower percentiles for marbling score. “There was no difference in the age of puberty onset between the different sire groups,” Marston says. The American Angus Association’s newly created Heifer Pregnancy (HP) EPD also supports this. High-accuracy sires show no correlation between HP and intramuscular fat, marbling, or any growth trait. “The data says you should be able to select for Heifer Pregnancy without affecting other traits,” he says. One study suggests marbling and milk EPDs have no effect on age at first calving, but there is a positive relationship between marbling and preweaning gain. “That is quite favorable if you’re looking to increase both weaning weight and marbling,” Marston says. It follows that increased milking ability eventually increases the ability to marble, he adds. “Mild correlations exist between lighter birth weights, easier calving and heavier milk production to greater marbling,” he says. In Angus populations, marbling ability isn’t related to external fat thickness. “That implies a breeder can match both marbling and do-ability to a particular management system,” Marston says. However, trying to make progress with both traits may yield slower results than choosing one over the other. The most efficient cows tend to be smaller in weight, stature and milk production, Marston says. “We’d expect marbling to be favored in these smaller cows because the traits have a slightly negative correlation.” In the Association’s Dollar Value Index suite of tools, $ Energy has a slightly negative (-.12) association with marbling. Marston says that means a cow with a high marbling EPD may be more efficient. That’s just one more bit of good news for producers who are trying to improve their cowherd and beef-product values simultaneously. “To maximize returns from tomorrow’s marketing systems, producers will have to meet consumer demands in an efficient manner,” Marston says. “Great genetic strides have been made in the improvement of efficient growth. Now it’s time for producers to maintain the growth advantages and increase carcass quality.” In adopting their approach to these issues, Marston says producers have sorted themselves into three categories. “The first group loves their work and lifestyle, but oftentimes goes unrewarded financially because of changes in the market and production environment,” he says. These are the farmers and ranchers “steeped in tradition.” A second group cuts cost with a focus on record keeping. They make data-driven decisions, but often ignore the ultimate customer. “As long as there’s a commodity market for beef, these producers will have an outlet,” Marston says. Cattlemen who are committed “food producers” have a greater chance of survival in today’s industry, he says. “They truly care about the consumers’ wants and find ways to fill their needs. They’re rewarded for their efforts and management,” Marston says. “They anticipate and build the acceptance and demand for beef.” Marston’s entire white paper is available at www.cabpartners.com/news/research/marston_marblingandothertraits.pdf.

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Monday, September 3,2007

Cull cow feeding presents opportunity

by WLJ
—Fed cattle prices rise ahead of holiday. Cash fed cattle trade last week was slow to start, with feedlots and packers working hard to outlast one another before coming to the table. As of last Thursday, analysts were still expecting trade at prices $1 higher than the prior week at $93-94 live and $146-148 dressed. However, as of mid-day last Thursday, feedlots were still passing on packer bids and were as much as $2-3 apart. A rising cutout and the expectation that next week’s holiday-shortened schedule ahead would add more strength to the boxed beef market was adding to feeder’s optimism late last week. Slaughter volume through last Thursday was estimated at 508,000 head, up 8,000 from the same period a week earlier, but below the 514,000 head tally for the same period a year earlier. Despite strong prices projected through the fourth quarter, there are a number of questions surrounding how packers are going to be able to continue to pay higher money for fed cattle without being able to boost the Choice cutout, which has spent most of the summer in the low $140s. “We are still facing a somewhat tight supply of fed cattle through the rest of this year, but packer margins are pretty narrow right now,” said Livestock Marketing Information Center Analyst Erica Rosa. “Our projections show fed prices for the fourth quarter in the mid- to high-$90s, but that’s strictly a result of the supply side. The demand side is pretty uncertain right now. With the uncertainty in the U.S. economy and lower priced competing proteins, you have to wonder whether beef prices are getting to the point where we are priced out of the market.” There is a tight supply of fed cattle right now, although some analysts have started to speculate that the supply is not as tight as previously thought. With weights beginning to increase seasonally and a futures premium for October fed cattle, feedlots may be slowing marketings, easing the supply pinch somewhat to the packer’s advantage. Rosa said there are a lot of unknowns in the market right now given the continued good grazing conditions in much of the country, increased heifer retention going forward this year, corn prices, the macroeconomic situation in the U.S., and international trade. “We have been receiving reports of producers holding heifers back in the southern Plains,” she said, adding that heifer retention this year is expected to be strong in many states where grazing conditions remain quite good as a result of late season precipitation. In terms of international trade, Canadian packers, which have been struggling since the border reopened allowing shipments of live cattle to the U.S., continue to close their doors. That has led to an increase in the number of cattle being shipped to the U.S. for slaughter and an increase in the amount of beef being exported to Canada, Rosa pointed out. Exports to Mexico and other countries are also on the rise, which is adding some support to cutout values. “But if you look at the middle meats, they aren’t able to sustain the cutout,” she said. Middle meats, which are typically consumed domestically, are a key to boosting cutout values higher, however, U.S. consumers are passing them up in favor of lower priced cuts, ground product and competing proteins. “If you look at the restaurant trade, you’ll see an increase in the use of some value cuts like the Flat Iron, mock tenders, skirt steak and flank steak. Restaurants are responding to consumers who are facing an uncertain U.S. economic picture,” Rosa said. “If you look at retail features, you’ll see it there too. I recently saw an ad featuring bratwurst, sausage and ground beef. There were no middle meats on the front page at all.” That lack of demand from the retail and consumer levels translates to a cutout which, last week, was trading higher at $147.01 on the Choice product and $140.49 on Select cuts, above year-ago levels of $145.28 on the Choice and $135.39 on the Select. However, last Thursday’s movement was light to moderate with only 130 loads of fabricated product and 54 loads of trim and grind selling ahead of one of the biggest grilling holidays of the year. Most retailers had already secured their meat needs for the weekend, however, it appeared that none were willing to bet on the need for quick fill-in following the holiday. The cow beef market continues to be the big winner in the cattle markets as a result of consumer preference for lower priced cuts of beef and a drop in cow slaughter compared to 2006 levels. Cow beef cutout values last week were $13 higher than year-ago prices at $118.75, while the 50 percent lean traded at $48.44, $7 higher than the same day in 2006 and the 90 percent lean moved higher to $147.94, compared to $130.56 last year. The opening of the Canadian border to animals born after March 1, 1999, could certainly impact that market if, and when, USDA makes that move. Some speculate it could come as early as October, however, most believe November or December are more likely.  According to Chicago Mercantile Exchange Analysts Len Steiner and Steve Meyer, there are perhaps as many as 600,000 head of cull cows in Canada that would meet the age criteria, although it is unlikely that all of them have the proper documentation required for export to the U.S. They also noted that it was unlikely that there would be a huge pulse of cattle immediately after the border opened, although they did note that possibility exists. In comments last week, the two analysts pointed out that many of these cows are now bred and will likely be retained in their Canadian herds until after calving. Although there could be an initial pulse of cull cows coming in from Canada, the market should remain strong well into the first quarter of next year as U.S. herd building gets underway and cow slaughter drops. That scenario could make feeding culls this winter an attractive opportunity for some producers. Feeder cattle Feeder cattle remained firm again this week, with most regions of the country having adequate moisture. Richard Stober of Superior Livestock Auction talked about their video auction of Aug. 21-24. “For these calves and yearlings, it seems like the market gets better just about every time we have a sale,” he explained. “Most areas are getting adequate moisture, but there are definitely some dry pockets scattered about the west and the Plains,” said Stober. Earlier in the summer, a number of cattle were being sold quickly in large, drought-stricken areas of the Deep South, but Stober said that isn’t the case any longer. “There aren’t really any more fire-sale cattle coming from that area. The south, for the most part, is still pretty dry, but in places like Florida, they’ve been getting enough moisture to go ahead and carry some of these calves out to their normal delivery dates,” Stober said. Stober said demand was very good, with a large number of buyers looking for yearlings. “There were definitely a lot of yearlings selling quite well on good demand and most of them were going to get delivered in the end of September to first part of October. The lighter calves, in most cases, were going to be delivered later in October and November, as there were a fair number of buyers looking for calves to put out on wheat,” Stober explained. The Superior auction had a total offering of 161,000 head, 42 percent of which were feeders over 600 lbs., and 64 percent of the feeder supply being steers. Compared to the last sale, feeder steers and heifers were firm to $3 higher, with calves in some places being $4 higher. Moisture in the southern Plains continued to spur demand for lightweight calves for winter grazing. Areas further west traded as much as $6 higher on most classes of cattle, but the sale’s exception was for lightweight calves in the northern areas, where most calves sold $3 lower. Feeders in the north-central region sold at $123.37 on a 628 lb. average, compared to $119.63 on a 621 lb. average in the western regions. Some heavier 700-800 lb. steers sold for an average of $111.14 in the far western region where prices remain good, but buyers are cautious of drought conditions in the Pacific states. Derrell Peel, Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist for Oklahoma State University, says there is still good reason for prices to remain steady to higher for most feeder cattle. “The economics from a stocker perspective still look pretty attractive,” says Peel. “There has been tons of moisture in Oklahoma and parts of Texas recently, and especially in Oklahoma, there look to be some good opportunities for wheat pasture this fall, especially compared to last year,” Peel explains. “There are a lot of guys with plenty of grass, so that should keep demand for winter grazing cattle strong no matter what, because even though prospects look good, production issues could keep operators waiting until later to decide what to do with their wheat,” says Peel. Peel explained that a horrible wheat crop last year in many winter-grazing areas of Oklahoma and parts of Texas will keep farmers leery of putting too much on their plates this fall. “The main reason stocking could be conservative in this area is because producers will be more concerned with getting a good wheat crop in than they will be about putting calves out to graze,” explained Peel. “I think most guys will still graze if they are able to get the wheat planted in time, but they may reduce stocking rates, or take heavier cattle and put them out later. Most people will just wait a little longer to make sure they’ve got good wheat before they throw a bunch of calves out there,” Peel said. In the cash markets, there was a total run of 4,020 head last week in El Reno, OK, where feeder steers and heifers were mostly steady to firm except for heifers over 700 lbs. Feeders in some instances were $2 higher, and 600-750 lb. thin, grazing-type steers were weak compared to the previous sale’s extremely high market. Steer and heifer calves sold steady on a light test. A large portion of the yearling offering was in thin condition due to extremely wet pastures, which are slowly drying out after significant rains in eastern Oklahoma. Further north at the Bassett, NE, sale, 2,070 head were sold last week and prices were fully steady on all classes of feeder cattle. A few short strings of fall calves were mixed in with the yearlings, which dominated the offerings. Nearly all cattle were over 600 lbs., and 52 percent of the feeders offered were steers. Eight weight feeders sold for averages between $117.58 and $119.84, with average prices for 900 lb. yearlings falling in at $115.50. Last Monday at the Stockland Livestock Auction, in Davenport, WA, 1,543 head sold, but not enough feeder cattle for accurate trend comparisons. Feeder cattle trade was moderate to active and demand was moderate. Feeders made up 63 percent of the run, and the supply included a 50/50 steer/heifer split. Nearly 52 percent of the run weighed over 600 lbs. Eight-weight steers sold in the $101-102 range, but lighter steers and heifers of 600 lbs. were only a $2-3 higher in most cases. Receipts totaled 1,476 last week in Clovis, NM, and compared to the last sale, feeder steers under 500 lbs. were $8-12 higher and steers over 500 lbs. were steady to $3 higher. Heifers sold mostly steady to $1-3 higher. Trade was active and demand good. Feeder cattle accounted for 75 percent, and steers made up approximately 62 percent of the run. Steers and heifers over 600 lbs. totaled 64 percent. — WLJ  

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Monday, September 3,2007

Montana pushes back EVA testing rule

by WLJ
The grace period for Montana’s new horse testing rule has been extended to Sept. 7. The Montana Board of Livestock recently approved a new rule to require all horses coming into Montana be tested for Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA), a respiratory virus that also causes abortion in mares. The new testing requirement was supposed to go into effect on Aug. 20. “That’s just too soon,” says acting State Veterinarian Dr. Jeanne Rankin. “Some of the tests are complicated and take a long time to run.” Also, a stallion could test positive because he contracted the virus naturally or has been vaccinated previously. If a horse tests positive for EVA, further complex tests that identify the specific virus must be run before the horse is allowed into Montana. The complexity of the tests require specialized equipment, so veterinarians must send samples to either the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, IA, or the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Fort Collins, CO. EVA spreads through the air, infected semen, and through the placenta to unborn foals. Often, stallions will not show symptoms of EVA, but still transmit it to vulnerable mares. Montana’s new order requires imported stallions to test negative for EVA within 30 days before coming into the state. Or stallions can be vaccinated for at least 28 days before coming to Montana if they test negative for EVA within 10 days prior to the vaccination. The new rule holds one exemption: Stallions that are brought to Montana for exhibition only and then return to their home state are not required to be tested for EVA. EVA tests are not the only requirement for traveling horses. All horses that are transported into or out of Montana also must have a brand inspection, a certificate of veterinary inspection (a health certificate) and a negative Equine Infectious Anemia test (a Coggins test) within 12 months. Many breeders artificially inseminate mares and EVA can infect a mare through semen so the donor stallion must be tested before a breeder ships semen, too. The Department of Livestock also requires horse breeders to ship imported semen with a general health certificate and a negative Coggins test on the stallion, as well as the negative EVA test.

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